Report

Baby Boomers: The Gloomiest Generation

  • June 25, 2008
  • By D'Vera Cohn

America's baby boomers are in a collective funk. Members of the large generation born from 1946 to 1964 are more downbeat about their lives than are adults who are younger or older, according to a new Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey.

Not only do boomers give their overall quality of life a lower rating than adults in other generations, they also are more likely to worry that their incomes won't keep up with inflation -- this despite the fact that boomers enjoy the highest incomes of any age group.

More so than those in other generations, boomers believe it is harder to get ahead now than it was 10 years ago. And they are less apt than others to say their standard of living exceeds the one their parents had when their parents were the age they are now.

These gloomy assessments come from a generation that always has been identified with youth (witness the resilience of their label: "baby boomers") but that's now well into -- and even beyond -- middle age. (Boomers turn 44 to 62 this year.)

However, it is by no means certain that the boomers' current bleak mood is a function of their current stage of life. When it comes to quality-of-life assessments, data suggest the boomers generally have been downbeat, compared with other age groups, for the past two decades -- starting back when some were still in their twenties. So their current sour ratings may be related to getting older, but they also may be related to the attitudes and expectations about life they formed when they were young.

The Pew survey was conducted by telephone from January 24 through February 19, 2008 among a randomly selected nationally representative sample of 2,413 adults. Baby boomers are defined as adults ages 43-62 at the time the survey was taken.

Read the full report Baby Boomers: The Gloomiest Generation on the Pew Research Center Web site.